Currently showing at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London are the pioneering photographic works of Linnaeus Tripe. The exhibition features over 60 of his most striking views of Indian and Burmese landscape and architecture, taken between 1852-1860. Through these early photographs, Tripe explored the possibilities of this new medium, showcasing and documenting archaeological sites, monuments and landscapes, rarely seen in the West. Tripe creates an impression of the world around him, combining the keen eye of a surveyor with the sensibilities of an artist, while giving testimony to his emerging skills as photographer.
In 1855 Captain Linnaeus Tripe, serving in the Madras Native Infantry, became official photographer to Burma. The following year he became government photographer to the Madras Presidency, and traveled round India compiling a large collection of calotype photographs of sculptures, forts and temples, including a number of stereoscopic photographs.
We hold two original volumes by Tripe. The volume Stereographs of Madura dates to 1858 and comprises some 70 gold-toned albumen prints mounted with animal glue. Madura is an Indonesian island off the northeastern coast of Java. Tripe’s photos of the island were exhibitied at the Madras Photographic Society in 1859. Stereoscopy (also called stereoscopics) is a technique for creating or enhancing the illusion of depth in an image by means of stereopsis for binocular vision. Paired stereo images are viewed using a stereoscope.
We also hold a copy of Tripe’s 1858 Photographs of the Elliot Marbles. The book notes “These photographs were taken by Captain Tripe in the months of May and June, after a wearying tour through the Trichinopoly, Madura, and Tanjore Districts, during the preceding four months and a half. Many of the subjects being heavy masses, and therefore not to be easily transported into the open air, were taken as they were lying, in the rooms of the Museum.” The Amaravati Marbles or, Elliot Marbles, are monumental sculptures and inscriptions that once furnished the religious mound known as the Great Stupa at Amaravati. While some artefacts remain in situ, many are scattered in various museums across the world, with the two principal collections held at the Government Museum in Chennai (Madras) and the British Museum in London